Hanik Kotecha looks at why lower league football games should be given a chance.
Tottenham Hotspurs have just broken the home attendance record for an English Club: with 85,011 Spurs supporters going to Wembley to see the game against Monaco. I was lucky to be part of the crowd and experience history in the making. While Wembley may not be White Hart Lane, the match highlighted that getting a ticket for the larger clubs is not the easiest thing in the world, especially for student fans without a membership. So, how can you experience English football without spending the dough?
Professional football is one of the world’s greatest pantomimes: there are heroes and villains for each club and its fans. In Britain, football lacks the pyrotechnics of South America, but is built on the raw passion of the crowds and players for whom football is a matter of life or death. The lower leagues of professional football receive little attention, yet can be the most inspiring.
For most students, especially those living in London, going to a football match is a luxury. Spurs use of Wembley stadium and the availability of £20 students tickets is a step in the right direction, but even then the games sell out. This shows the conundrum facing students: either pay exorbitantly for tickets or decide not to attend football matches. Most London clubs have fewer than 30,000 seats (only Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham have larger stadiums), making it much harder for students to pick up a ticket.
Considering the price of football, going to top tier games on a regular basis is not feasible. So, I decided to visit a game between Barnet and Colchester to see whether it would be worth it…
Barnet (known as ‘The Bees’) is a League Two side in London, with its stadium in walking distance from Canons Park and the Northern Line (Edgware Branch). It is also the closest club to my birthplace – so I was both curious and sentimental about seeing the team play.
I got to the match 20 minutes before kick-off. Got the tickets. Got a cup of tea and went to the stands. The away crowd out-sang the home crowd after an early goal. As the game went on, Barnet slowly started to turn things round and the crowd got excited. And then it happened. Weston scored! A sloppy goal, but it didn’t matter. The noise levels rose. Akpa Akpro linked up with John Akinde, one final opportunity to turn it around. He shoots. No goal. The match ended.
It may not have been the most exciting game- but it was still football. Unlike top-tier teams, the game was about the local community. The players on the pitch are far more relatable: they don’t earn millions, but are still local heroes. They are ordinary guys who you could meet in your local pub. There may not be glamour in the lower leagues but there is a genuine love for a beautiful game.
Students who love football need a real alternative to expensive tickets, pricy stadiums and millionaire players. Despite the fact that Barnet, unlike clubs such as Leyton Orient, does not have student discounts, the whole day only cost me £25.
English football is about many things – communities, the pantomime and above all-else: the love of the game. It relies on people turning up and as long as we can still afford to go: it will be the people’s game.